‘Playing for something bigger’ – Dayaan Cassiem inspiring South African Hockey against all odds

by | Nov 16, 2023 | Hockey – Mens, Paris 2024

Photo credit: ES Media 

In the exhilarating realm of hockey, Dayaan Cassiem stands as an emblem of leadership and exceptional skill within the South African Men’s Hockey team. His journey is a narrative woven with threads of dedication, perseverance, and an unwavering passion for the sport—an embodiment of the spirit of a true champion.

Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, Cassiem not only holds the prestigious position of captain but also thrives as a striker for the national team. His passion for hockey sprouted from a pivotal decision between football and hockey—a choice rooted in genuine love for the sport and an understanding of the potential opportunities it could provide, surpassing those in football.

“I chose hockey because I really loved it, and I felt like there was more of an opportunity for me in hockey than football,” confided the South African skipper.

The unexpected call to captaincy was a momentous occasion for Cassiem, one that took him by surprise yet was received with immense honour and gratitude.

“It was a really special moment. I didn’t expect it, especially being young and not playing as many games for the country. Yeah, I was surprised, but of course, he (Gareth Ewing) gave me a really good example of why he wanted me to be the captain.”

Assuming the mantle of captaincy within the national team wasn’t merely about leadership on the field; it encompassed navigating administrative hurdles off the field as well. For South African hockey players like Cassiem, this role entailed numerous responsibilities beyond the game, including financial planning and seeking support to ensure the team’s participation in events.

“Being the captain (of South Africa) is not like any other country where a captain is just making sure they’re leading the team on the field here, as a captain, you have to worry about off the field things like admin or making sure that we’re financially stable so that players can attend camps.”

Navigating his path in hockey was far from a smooth ride. As a South African hockey player, Cassiem encountered formidable financial hurdles that often cast a shadow over the pursuit of his dreams. Despite this adversity, his unwavering dedication and tenacity to excel in the sport illuminated a path forward.

Cassiem’s current journey with Haagse Hockeyvereniging, a Dutch club, has opened new horizons and opportunities for the South African captain. His experience overseas urges young hockey players to follow suit in their pursuit of success.

“Playing overseas is always a dream come true; it’s really special. It’s really nice, very professional, and I would advise any youngster, if you get an opportunity to go overseas, just go for it. Because you’ll see the cool side of how it is to play overseas.”

Representing the nation draped in the green and gold jersey holds a significance that transcends the boundaries of the playing field for Cassiem. It signifies embodying the pride of a nation, transcending financial constraints, and playing for a cause larger than oneself.

“It’s always nice to represent your country, especially in the green and gold; specially to make the country proud and just to play for something bigger than yourself.”

His journey epitomizes the resilience and unwavering spirit required to flourish in the face of financial challenges—a testament to his fortitude and commitment to his craft.

The journey towards Olympic qualification was fraught with financial obstacles. Yet, Cassiem and his teammates displayed unwavering resilience, defying the odds stacked against them. Their triumph in the African Hockey Road to Paris Qualifiers amid financial constraints stands as a testament to their commitment and unyielding spirit to represent their country on the global stage.

“I think we did really well, to keep our composure and also just stay calm in every situation. Of course, leading up to the qualifiers wasn’t easy because we weren’t financially able to get players to South Africa, and it was really difficult. But South African Hockey secured some funding for us, making it a bit easier for the camp. We are just really happy that we’re qualified for next year’s Olympics.”

As the South African Men’s hockey team gears up for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Cassiem and his teammates aspire for a powerful performance, aiming to reach the quarter-finals. However, their path is obstructed by financial hurdles that need surpassing.

“We have a lot of games planned for us before the Olympics and lots of camps, but then at the end of the day without financial support, it will be really difficult for us to do all these preparations, but the coaches have a plan and also the technical staff have put a plan in place.”

Despite these challenges, Cassiem’s passion for hockey remains unwavering. His lightning-quick hand skills and prowess on the field are a testament to the countless hours of hard work and dedication invested to transcend the limitations posed by financial constraints.

“I think at the end of the day it’s cool to have fast hands, but I think it’s all about hard work and making sure you’re putting in the extra hours.”

Cassiem’s message to young South African hockey players echoes with hope and encouragement. He emphasizes the sport’s camaraderie, excitement, and the unparalleled joy of representing one’s country, despite the financial barriers that often obstruct the path.

“The best part of being a captain is that you’re leading a nation with people who bring so much diversity to our team, and that makes it really special. For me to lead those people makes it even more special because you hear different stories and get to know different people.”

His journey, though tainted by financial hurdles, serves as a guiding light for aspiring South African hockey players. His role as the captain has exposed him to a whole new facet of hockey and the opportunities it brings.

Dayaan Cassiem’s story stands as a reminder that while financial challenges may pose formidable obstacles, they do not define the limits of one’s aspirations. With unwavering determination, commitment, and a profound love for the sport, South African hockey players can dare to dream, defy the odds, and carve their paths toward greatness on the global stage.


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